A charity claims delayed diagnosis and screening failures are putting young bowel cancer patients at risk.
Research by Bowel Cancer UK amongst young patients found 42 per cent of women and 10 per cent of men saw their GP more than five times before being referred to a specialist - or were diagnosed as an emergency before then.
Bowel cancer is traditionally associated with people over 50 and the charity’s report “Never Too Young. The Experiences of Younger Bowel Cancer Patients” is now being used to raise awareness.
It is backed by Halifax man Kenny Marland who has fought his own brave battle against the disease. The 25-year-old father of two and former nightclub manager started passing blood, suffering abdominal pains and fluctuating weight.
His cancer concerns were dismissed and after seeing his own GP and others several times he demanded a referral.
In May 2011 he had surgery to remove a tumour. In April 2012 he had his colostomy reversed and learned he had a secondary cancer in his liver which he has also beaten and has now got the all clear.
Kenny said people should not shy away from symptoms and feel confident to talk about their concerns.
“Being honest could save lives. If you get symptoms get checked out and you can get through cancer if you are positive,” he said.
Due to his treatment Kenny’s weight ballooned to over 18stone and he is now shedding weight to run the Great North Run later this year for the charity.
In the longer term he actively wants to support the charity and young people suffering from the disease.
KEY RECOMMENDATIONS FROM BOWEL CANCER UK
A bowel disease decision aid tool to enable GPs to make informed decisions about who to refer for diagnostic tests.
Revision of clinical guidance to ensure people under 50 with symptoms get appropriate tests to rule out bowel cancer first, not last.
Adequate screening and surveillance for families at high risk (for example due to genetic conditions where there is a family history of the disease).
A registry of younger bowel cancer patients to further research the epidemiology of cancer in this group.
Younger bowel cancer patients to be given access to services they need for fertility and long term psychological and physical effects of treatment.